Malnutrition on the rise in key states, finds government survey
The government recently released the first set of findings of the latest fifth round of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). The survey has indicated a worrying trend in child undernutrition, sparking fears that decades of gains may become undone. The first set of findings have only been released for 22 out of 37 states and union territories in India.
Malnutrition parameters witness marginal improvements of reversals
The latest data has shown that several states/UTs either witnessed marginal improvements or sustained reversals on malnutrition parameters for children (aged 5 or below). The parameters include child stunting (lower-than-expected height for age), child wasting (lower-than-expected weight for height), and underweight (lower-than-expected weight for age). Rates of child stunting have notably risen in Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, and Maharashtra.
Phase II survey expected to be complete by May 2021
Phase II of the survey, which includes the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, etc., had been suspended earlier this year due to COVID-19. The work was resumed in November and is expected to be completed by May 2021.
Increase in child stunting 'extremely worrying'
Purnima Menon—a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute—told IndiaSpend that the increase in child stunting is "extremely worrying." "I think you would be hard-pressed to find any country in the world that has actually seen outcomes worsen in terms of stunting," Menon said, adding that the current trends are an outcome of the economic slowdown over the past few years.
Survey reflects impact of past five years
Menon said, "This survey was conducted in 2019, and the data is for children aged 0-5, so what we are looking at is children who were born in 2015-19 and the health of their mothers while pregnant." She added, "I think we are now going to need to study what went on in the lives of these households over these five years."
Rates of child vaccinates shot up
Meanwhile, in a positive trend, 18 of the 22 surveyed states/UTs witnessed an increase in the rates of child vaccinations. 17 regions among them now report that over 70% of children under the age of two are fully vaccinated. In the early 2000s, child vaccination trends had notably seen a decline. The survey noted that boys are more likely to be vaccinated than girls.
Infant Mortality Rate mostly stagnant; sexual abuse of girls increases
The survey also showed that the Infant Mortality Rate (number of deaths per 1,000 live births for children under the age of one) is mostly stagnant, along with the Under 5 Mortality Rate. In nine of the 22 surveyed states/UTs, more young women reported having experienced sexual violence as children, the latest survey showed compared to data reported in 2015-16.